Kenya and Uganda strike deal to ease cargo movement and clear truck snarl-up at Malaba border

KENYA – The governments of Kenya and Ugandan have resolved to suspend truck scanning at Malaba-Kenya in a bid to clear a 40-kilometer traffic snarl-up that has slowed down the movement of trucks to Uganda.

Kenya’s Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, his Ugandan counterpart Katumba Wamala and Uganda’s State Minister for Trade Harriet Ntabazi on Saturday spearheaded the meeting that brought together border agencies from the two countries at Malaba-Uganda customs offices.

The meeting agreed that the usual scanning of trucks on the Kenyan side of the border be suspended immediately to fast track movement of trucks to Uganda where scanning will now be solely done.

Macharia said the backlog at the border is a major worry to both countries as it has negatively impacted both trade and health sectors.

“It has been a major concern to us that we have been holding virtual meetings as Ministers at the East African Community level, Transport level and Health level for the last two to three weeks but those meetings did not yield fruit. This time it was decided that we come here in person to see what is going on in Malaba,” Macharia said.

“The key thing is to make sure that the adverse impact of this backlog ceases within the next few days.

By 26th February 2022, we want this backlog to be cleared permanently that is why we are taking hardcore decisions like suspending the weighbridges, suspending the scanning and increasing the labor force at the border. We want to make sure that those issues are addressed and also the softer issues where complaints have been made to the effect that there has been mistreatment of drivers on both sides,” CS Macharia further said.

Wamala regretted the backlog saying it is negatively impacting not only the two countries but also other landlocked countries that rely on the northern corridor to transport cargo from Mombasa.

“We have met the customs, health and immigration officials. We want this backlog to be out of the way latest by Wednesday. From the Kenyan side, the scanning will not be done because that has been part of the problem. Scanning will be done in Uganda before the truck drivers can proceed with their journeys. We have also agreed that the verification, which is normally done at the Malaba- Uganda yard, be moved to ODJ Holding ground, which is far from here to minimize clogging.”

“We have also agreed that because the clogging is too much on the Kenyan side we are going to give it a priority in terms of movement of trucks at a rate of 75percent against 25percent time allowed for trucks from Kenya to cross to Uganda,” Wamala said.

Cargo Backlog

Uganda Trade Minister Ntabazi decried the high fuel prices in Uganda due to the backlog noting that with the suspension of scanning, the movement of fuel trucks will now be enhanced and force fuel prices to drop.

“We have put a target of Wednesday. By Wednesday all trucks including those carrying fuel would have entered the country and there will be no need for fuel dealers to hike fuel prices because there will be enough of it.”

Uganda Revenue Authority Assistant Commissioner for Enforcement Julius Nkwasire revealed that on average the Malaba and Busia border One-Stop Border Posts have been clearing approximately 200 fuel trucks every day which number has since increased to 250 per day.

In December 2021, Uganda introduced mandatory Covid-19 testing for drivers to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

The move forced drivers transporting cargo between Mombasa and Kampala to go on strike on 3rd  January.

The strike lasted for 11 days and by the time the boycott was called off the traffic, snarl-up had stretched to over 72 kilometers from Malaba town in Kenya.

Reporting by KBC

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